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Russia is not protecting the government in Syria and is not its advocate, Russian President Vladimir Putin says while acknowledging differences with Turkey over how to achieve to end the crisis

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İpek Yezdani İpek Yezdani ipek.yezdani@hurriyet.com.tr

Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russia and Turkey cannot agree on how to respond to the conflict in Syria, adding that his country is not the advocate of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

“We are not protecting the regime in Syria, we are not the advocates of this regime,” Putin said at a press conference in Istanbul following a three-hour meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Replying to a question about NATO’s Patriot missiles set to be deployed in Turkey as a precautionary measure against Syria, Putin said they understood the concerns of Turkey about the ongoing incidents on its border with Syria, however under these conditions, it was wrong to create a provocative situation on the border.

“If fire is being opened on the territory of a country, it is very difficult not to see these incidents,” Putin said. “If there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the end this rifle will open fire.”

Putin also said the Patriot missile system is not the best system in the world but rather an outdated generation of missile system.

“What we are concerned about is Syria’s future. We don’t want the same mistakes to be repeated in the near future. We shall remember how some regimes supported the militants in Libya and how the situation ended with the killing of the American ambassador [in Libya],” Putin said.

‘Turkey should use influence on opposition’

Putin also said there had been new ideas put on the table during his meeting with Erdoğan and from now on these new ideas regarding Syria should be discussed.

Asked about a Syrian nuclear threat, Putin said, “Are you making a joke? Does Syria have a nuclear weapon, or have I misunderstood the question? Syria does not have any nuclear weapons; they are not even close to developing nuclear weapons.”

Putin also said Russia’s and Turkey’s positions regarding the future of Syria are quite similar, however there are differences between the positions of the two countries on which methods should be used to generate the future of the country.

UN pulls out staff

Before the meeting, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov said Turkey should use its influence on the Syrian opposition to convince it to sit at the negotiating table with Syria’s government.
“If there is something like a unified Syrian opposition and if Turkey has an influence on them, of course it’s vital [for Turkey] to use this influence,” Peskov told a group of journalists ahead of the joint press conference.

Peskov said the number of Syrian refugees flowing into Turkey would rise to hundreds of thousands if the Bashar al-Assad government is overthrown.

“Turkey says the al-Assad regime should go, but we say that if the al-Assad regime goes then the number of refugees flowing into Turkey would rise from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Syria will turn into a lake of blood. Syria will be dragged into instability and into a power vacuum,” Peskov said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is to pull non-essential staff out of Syria because of the growing conflict dangers and is restricting travel for those remaining, a U.N. news agency said yesterday.

 A quarter of the 100 international staff still in Damascus could leave this week, some staff could be moved out of the northern city of Aleppo and travel outside the capital will be restricted, the IRIN agency quoted U.N. humanitarian officials as saying.

“The security situation has become extremely difficult, including in Damascus,” Radhouane Nouicer, regional humanitarian coordinator in Syria was quoted as saying in Damascus.

December/03/2012

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